Monday 22 January 2018

Group rivals make vow to improve

Georgia's Valeri Kazaishvili in action against Austria's Julian Baumgartlinger
Georgia's Valeri Kazaishvili in action against Austria's Julian Baumgartlinger

Despite a defeat on the opening night of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, Georgia - Ireland's next opponents on the road to the finals in Russia - have promised to improve before their next test in Dublin.

The Georgians began the qualifiers for Euro 2016 with a home tie where they hoped for a decent start to the group and a stab, at least, at qualification, but two years ago they lost their first game, 2-1 at home to Ireland, and there was a similar outcome in Tbilisi on Monday night, Vladimir Weiss' side falling 2-1 against Austria.

That's a run of five defeats in their last eight games, hopes boosted by a pre-Euro 2016 friendly win over Spain laid to waste.

Georgia face a testing time next month, away to Ireland and Wales in the space of four days, and with three defeats from three games they could be out of the running early in the group.

Yet the Georgians hope they can do better. "We deserved more from the Austria game, and our national team has not fallen apart yet," says Georgia's captain Guram Kashia.

"We played well in the second half against Austria and can be pleased with how we did, though we are not happy with conceding two goals in the first half. We can do better and I hope we do."

Ignoring their their wins over Gibraltar, Georgia put up a poor showing in the Euro 2016 qualifiers, bar a shock win over Scotland and manager Vladimir Weiss had expected a decent start from the opening game, to have something positive to take to Dublin next month, a city where Georgia have lost on each of their four visits, on a 9-1 aggregate scoreline.

Serbia are another side looking to do better as the campaign drags on, local media in Belgrade labelling Monday's 2-2 draw with Ireland as two points dropped.

"The group is very even," says Serbia and Southampton man Dusan Tadic, scorer of their second goal from the penalty spot.

"Ireland have some very experienced players and showed that in the game. We were slow into the match and didn't play as well in the first half as we can but we did better in the second half. It's not easy to come back when you concede a goal so early, but we did it."

Captain Branislav Ivanovic also expects his side to improve as the group progresses. "We have a very young side and people need to remember that," says the Chelsea man.

"We made mistakes against Ireland but I hope as the group goes on that we do better, we have nine games left and I feel we can improve, we now get ready to play Moldova next month."

Moldova, who host Ireland next month, are on a run of eight defeats in 10 games following their 4-0 loss in Wales.

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